At the coffeeshop yesterday I was approached by someone who asked if they could sit next to me because I looked sad. I said I would rather they didn’t (there were lots of empty tables), and in response to this they patted my shoulder reassuringly and said “Aw, that’s okay, that’s okay,” and sat down next to me anyway. They were obviously disturbed, but they didn’t seem violent or angry, so there wasn’t much I could do but give them my partial attention as I continued to work.
I found it funny that they (it was a he—I forgot his name even before he left) wanted to sit next to me because I looked sad. At first, this seemed predatory, and I was annoyed because it seemed like I was being clumsily hit on, but I eventually realized that he thought it was his duty to cheer me up. As he was leaving he said I was “An alright guy,” and I responded, without really thinking, “You don’t have to say that”, which was more a disavowal or statement of indifference than anything else. He took that as a sign that he should come back to me, pat my shoulder, and say, repeatedly, “Oh, you really are, you really are.”
I was sad, but I don’t mind feeling that way. In fact, I might feel more than sad, but I am not necessarily sure that suffering is a bad thing and I’m trying to feel it out, to pay attention to it and accept it as necessary. As long as it isn’t corrupted by anger or bitterness, as long as one remembers his or her duty to others, sadness is a noble feeling. By no means do I want to be consumed by sadness, to invest in sadness, or to clothe myself in sadness, but I don’t want to bury it either, to ignore it or pretend that I don’t feel that way.
For some reason I’ve been recalling an entry in Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet, where he suggests that “the dreamer” should always act as an aristocrat, even by themselves, and never forget that they are never alone (since all people contain multitudes). By this he means, maintain manners and protocols, keep up a certain indifference or detachment.
I have connected the idea of embracing sadness and acting like an aristocrat, as if the most dignified way to deal with sadness is to simultaneously accept it and nourish a respectful distance between your sadness and the outside world. I’m not sure what this means, exactly, or how that would work. But I think maintaining an awareness of propriety is the best way to ensure that your sadness doesn’t become bitterness, anger, or even insanity, because to be aware of those things is to always be aware that you have responsibilities to other people.
I want to do a lot of things with this blog, but my main goal, I think, is to integrate my feelings into a public form of writing, learning to be emotional or sensitive without becoming gaudy, hysterical, or vulgar. I think I have this capacity already, but somewhere along the line I became more concerned with performance or even, somehow, competition (emotional competition?). For the past year I haven’t posted anything, basically, on any blog, because I’ve noticed this tendency and felt less than sincere. I’ve been afraid to access what I really feel, to write in a contemplative and composed method, and now, maybe (at least in this moment), I am ready to return.